Friday, 20 January 2017

Got a badge? Can I be your friend?

Got a Fitbit or Nike FuelBand? Your employer might soon be asking you to wear one at work.

We live in an ever more connected world and visualising digital connections and interactions is now very easy. However, the most effective networkers instinctively know the importance of building relationships face-to-face. Until now, the only way of mapping those real-world relationships and personal networks has been though survey-based techniques, such as Social Network Analysis (SNA or ONA). Indeed KIN has conducted SNA surveys in the past and will be doing so again this summer.

The advent of cheap, wearable bluetooth or wifi trackers, now gives the opportunity to effortlessly produce sociograms of how teams interact or indeed of entire organisations. Of course there are significant privacy concerns here. Firstly, how do you feel about your movements being tracked in real-time and secondly how will that data be used? Even with assurances of anonymised data and analysis, I'm really not sure I want my bosses tracking my every move. Having said that, they are already doing just that with my 'digital footprint', particularly email and internal messaging.

MIT spin-off Humanyze claims to be working with several large financial and energy companies, mapping employees movement and connections using wearable trackers or 'badges'. They claim network analysis can improve teamwork, collaboration and process optimisation. Some of these programs are being promoted as ways of getting sedentary workers to move around more. If this is the case why not give them a Fitbit?

At least in being asked to wear, and display, a badge, the individual is openly participating in being tracked. I have this amusing/dystopian vision of a badge-wearer I'd rather not be associated with approaching me and hightailing out of there before the system connects us. Conversely, influential and senior people being stalked by 'badgers' wanting to game the system.

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